Hearthstone Guide: Why am I losing in Arena mode?

Arena Card Draft

Suppose you have followed my first Hearthstone guide and are now building a collection using the gold->arena->quests loop strategy I have outlined. The strategy is working okay, but you find that you rarely win more than one to three matches in the Arena. What can you do?

The first thing to figure out is how you are losing. Are you falling way behind on the board and getting over whelmed by the number of minions your opponent has? Do you have situational cards that aren’t useful in the current situation? Are you running out of cards and getting beat on resources?

Some times you can just lose on the cards offered: there are times when you aren’t presented with cards that can make a good deck. I had a run once where I wasn’t shown a single spell, and others where I wasn’t shown a single minion with cost below three. It’s hard to win with those decks (actually, I did okay on the spell-less deck as it was a Druid deck, but still). If you aren’t given cards you just have to write it off. This should be the expect, though, not the common case. 95%+ precent of the time, you are given cards you can win with if you pick and use them correctly.

As I mentioned in the collection-building guide, this is the biggest trick to the arena: always pick Paladin, Mage or Druid if you can. Mage used to be the best, but the new cards have diluted how often Fireball, Frostbolt and Flamestrike appear (those are some of the best mage cards and are commons). The rest are can be hard to get a good deck with. With Rogue, hunter and shaman, it is possible to get a good deck, it’s just a little trickier. I only pick Priest if presented an option of Warlock, Warrior and Priest, and I never pick the other two.

Here are the main ways people lose in Arena.

1) Overwhelmed.

My, what a big board you have their, grandma.
My, what a big board you have their, grandma.

If you are getting overwhelmed and losing board control much of the time, there are usually a few reasons:

Poor Card Mana curve in your deck.

If you consistently don’t play a minion until turn 4 and don’t have good removal spells, you are going to lose. It’s that simple. Even if you have good removal spells, you might still lose if you are wasting them all early in the game. This means you need some cheap minions. I would say about 7~8 1~2 drops is the minimum. Most 1 drops are useless, but zombie chow is pretty good. Clock work gnome has its moments, too. Ideally, you would be able to play a card using your exact mana pool each turn for the first six or even seven turns. That’s not possible in reality, but you should be able to put minions out on the first several turns at least.

This is probably a really lousy deck, based on just the mana curve. The odds of playing a card before turn 4 is pretty low.
This is probably a really lousy deck, based on just the mana curve. The odds of playing a card before turn 4 is pretty low.

Losing initiative.

This is a more advanced strategy Sometimes it feels like a bad idea to put a card down to just have it get killed by your opponents hero power. For example, you don’t want to play clockwork gnome because the mage will just kill it. Unless you need the gnome to trigger a mech-synergy, it’s often better to pay the card, because your opponent using their hero power to kill it gives you initiative. You want to be the person in the driver seat, putting cards and making your opponent respond.

Similarly, if your opponent plays a clockwork gnome, don’t kill it with your hero power if you can instead play a 2/3 card like zombie chow or Mechwarper (or whatever). That gives you initiative.


If your opponent gets a ton of synergy cards and beats you that way, well, you just got beaten by someone who was luckier than you. One example is a mech-heavy deck getting tons of extra power on the board. That just sucks and sometimes you play correctly but still lose. Still, this should be the exception rather than the rule. If you have an idea of what cards the opponent might have, you could minimize this. For example, if you put a mad scientist out, and your opponent kills it and plays Kezan Mystic and steals your secret, well that’s just bad luck. but if your opponent is a hunter and has a secret and you play a Confessor Paletress or an Evil Heckler and it gets sniped, that’s your fault. You should have played a minion with very low health, or more than 5 health, or divine shield or a good death rattle. Because you knew there was a chance of a snipe being the secret.

2) None of the cards in my hand are good at this moment.

This means you probably picked a bunch of situational cards. In general, you are not going to get a lot of synergy in an arena deck, which means you should pick cards that are good in most situations over cards that are great, but only in some situations. For example, Boulderfist Ogre is a good arena card in most situations. Master of Ceremonies is a good card only in a rare few situations. You want to pick cards that can be played without synergies and are still acceptable. Goblin blast mage is a 5/4 for four mana, which is fine. If you get to use the 4-random damage ability with it, that’s amazing. If not, it’s still a fine arena card. Blackwing Corruptor (5/4 for 5 mana) is a very good card if you have a dragon, but is way below average if you don’t. You should only pick that card if you already have a bunch of dragons in your deck. Ram wrangler (3/3 for five mana) is a terrible card if you don’t have a beast. I wouldn’t pick that card unless I had a deck full of beasts.

The point is, it’s hard to pick a deck based on synergy. So pick cards that are good on their own.

Really back luck. It happens.
Really back luck. It happens.

3) Running out of resources.

Let’s say your deck consistently lasts until turn nine or ten, but then you have no cards in your hand and nothing on the board. Your opponent still has four cards and a couple of minions, and easily beats you from this point. In this case, you lost on resources. This could mean a few things.

Made poor trades.

If you consistently use two of your minions to kill your opponent’s minions (a  two-for-one trades in your opponent’s favor), you are going to run out of resources. Example: if your opponent has a Sunwalker, and you need three minions to kill it, or a minion and a spell, etc, you just used a lot of resources to kill one minion. Some times this is unavoidable, but you need to pay attention to the types of trades you are making. This is especially true when you don’t have an aggressive deck and are playing someone who is playing a slow “control” style game. They put out a Piloted Shredder, you lose two minions to it, they put out a Druid of the C;aw, you lose two minions to it, they put out an Ironbark Defender and you lose two more, finally they get another Ironbark Defender and you have an empty board and an empty hand. The way these trades work in ranked play is different. In the arena, controlling the board is 90% of the game. Make good trades.

Getting good cards that are good value for their mana is most of this. Getting a healthy number of removal cards, spells that attack multiple minions, buff spells or weapons is a way to make your trades go further.

You have no card draw.

If your deck has no way to get more cards into your hand, then you really only get one card a turn. If your opponent gets more than that, you will fall behind on resources. Getting some card draw is always good, because only being able to play the original three cards plus one card a turn is rarely enough. The trick is to not pick crappy card draw cards. Jeweled Scarab, for example, looks like a nice card but it is so weak almost all you get out of it is the card draw. Instead just pick a better card in the first place. Azure Drake on the other hand is an okay card without the card draw, and the extra draw means it’s great.

It’s tricky to get all of these things to work in the arena. But if you get a deck with a nice curve, a few powerful minions and a couple of removal spells and a bit of card draw, you will win most of the time.

Andrew Smith
About Andrew Smith 42 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Smith is a Seattle Native and University of Washington grad.

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